Sunday, February 9, 2014

1930s Classic: DODSWORTH (1936)

I'm going to try to start a weekly post on a movie from the 1930s, my favorite decade. Tonight I watched DODSWORTH which was on Turner Classic Movies. Made in 1926, it stars Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Mary Astor, and Paul Lukas, with a minor role by David Niven. Directed by William Wyler and based on the 1929 novel by Sinclair Lewis.

Sam Dodsworth is an automobile tycoon who is newly retired and anxious to start his new life by going on a cruise to Europe with his wife Fran. Sam is an enthusiastic, full of life American - the typical successful businessman stereotype. He's so excited to see England for the first time that he stands on deck and waits for the Bishop's Light beaming from land, heralding the arrival of England. But just wait, as a very different Sam will reveal himself during the second half of the movie. Fran, on the other hand, is seeing Europe as an opportunity to escape her stifling lifestyle as the wife of an aging tycoon and doesn't hesitate to start flirting with the first men that give her the opportunity. After a few weeks in Paris, it's apparent that things are falling apart very fast. Halfway through the movie, Fran stays in Europe and Sam goes home.

This is one of the most captivating movies I have seen in months. The story is realistic and I had a hard time finding a false note anywhere in the dialogue. Ruth Chatterton's beguiling charm and dazzling smile make her charming selfishness totally believable, and Walter Huston is a marvel to watch. This is one of Wyler's earlier directions, a few years before MRS. MINIVER and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, and decades before BEN-HUR. DODSWORTH should be on the Required Viewing list for every Wyler fan.

Here is the first ten minutes of DODSWORTH. Unfortunately the entire screen may not be viewable in my blog; if it isn't, you can go here to watch it on YouTube (and see the rest of the movie too).

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Ed Hulse said...

In my book, Sam Dodsworth is the quintessential American. (Today, of course, he'd be considered a rapacious corporate pirate and a hated 1 percenter.) But I wish I were half the man that he is, fictional character or otherwise.

I totally agree with you about the writing; there's not a false note in the whole movie. So many wonderful lines. (My favorite is the one about love having to stop somewhere short of murder, or words to that effect.) And I have to admit to having teared up a little the first time I saw that radiant final closeup of Mary Astor.

Walker Martin said...

Not only is this movie excellent but it stars one of the great actors: Walter Huston. He's a big favorite with me and some of his great roles are:

THE BEAST OF THE CITY--He plays a hardboiled, tough cop. Great shoot out at the end.

LAW AND ORDER--One of the great, tough early sound westerns.

KONGO--Remake of Lon Chaney's great West of Zanzibar but Huston puts his own stamp on the role.

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER--Huston plays the Devil.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE--One of my favorite mysteries. I saw this movie a dozen times as a kid on TV.

TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE--Another great role. Plus Humphrey Bogart.

THE FURIES--Huston's last role and a great adult western.

There are others but the above stand out. One of the great things about dvds is that you can build up your own library of great films and watch them over and over.

Laurie Powers said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Mary Astor was so wonderful in this, Ed, I wish she more more on screen time. And thanks for the lists of Huston credits Walker - I'd like to check out BEAST OF THE CITY. Do either of you know whether Netflix streaming offers these older classics yet?